By Melissa Campeau
Photo: Matthew Plexman
Leadership sets the tone for a community and can help ensure an environment that’s equitable, inclusive and representative of all. That understanding informed the recent review of the Principal’s Qualification Program (PQP) and the Supervisory Officer’s Qualification Program (SOQP).
Changes to the guidelines, finalized last spring, reflect the changing needs of students, teachers and the public. These needs were brought to light at an open space event facilitated by the College that included students, parents, educators and representatives from stakeholder groups.
“It’s important that voices representative of those who are impacted by school district leadership be part of the dialogue,” says Eleanor Newman, OCT, executive director and SOQP co-ordinator, Eastern Ontario Staff Development Network, and part of the writing team for the SOQP guidelines. “The work of supervisory officers is done through engagement with those who bring different experience and expertise to the tasks and issues that arise,” says Newman, who notes this was modelled through the AQ guideline writing process, as well.
“I applaud the College’s effort to bringing diverse voices to the table, understanding that diversity does not just mean social identities — it also means diversity of thought,” says Alison Gaymes San Vincente, OCT, centrally assigned principal, Principal Coaching and School Improvement, Toronto District School Board. “When you only have similar perspectives at table, it’s challenging to get to that cognitive dissonance place where new thinking emerges. However, a diversity of voices and perspectives allows for this.”
The revised guidelines include a more explicit emphasis on ethical leadership and the importance of principals and supervisory officers adopting a critical pedagogical stance. The program addresses the critical role of the supervisory officers in monitoring curriculum, instruction, assessment and evaluation practices, so that these practices are bias-free, inclusive, respectful and relevant to all learners. Principals and supervisory officers can be key catalysts for change and are ethically responsible for raising consciousness about whose voices and perspectives are included and whose are excluded.
"Recent changes to the PQP and SOQP guidelines reflect the changing needs of students, teachers and the public."
Consequences of policy, practices and decisions can impact various communities in different ways, and leaders must be attuned to this. “The revised SOQP guideline places emphasis on building the capacity of candidates to recognize and address systemic barriers,” says Newman. “This is important as the ultimate goal of education leadership is for the student journey through school to be a positive and productive experience.”
“There is an abundance of research evidence that suggests that student achievement, positive character development and well-being are often intrinsically connected to students feeling included in their schools and communities,” says Richard White, OCT, co-ordinator of international programs and leadership, Professional Learning Office, faculty of education, York University, and a member of the writing team for the PQP guidelines. “The input gathered from the open space session confirmed that a critical component of the role of school principals is the ability to co-create inclusive learning environments for all students in the school community, hence the focus on leadership through an equity lens was adopted for the revised PQP guideline,” he explains.
“We know that certain populations underachieve and their social identity is a factor,” says Gaymes San Vincente. “Therefore, it’s imperative to include a focus on equity, diversity and how power operates in public education.” She adds, “When we understand these pieces, and make a targeted effort to challenge barriers in public education, this takes us a step closer to truly achieving the goal of young people reaching their full potential.”
For more information visit: oct-oeeo.ca/additionalqualifications